As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)
On our first reading, we see a woman yell out that basically Mary is super blessed and Jesus responds with “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” But what on earth is happening here, what does this mean, and what can we glean from it?
An Out of Place Response?
Let’s start with this woman in the crowd. This woman had sat there and listened to Jesus talk about demon possession, the kingdom of God, being with or against Him, gathering with Him or scattering, and not being in a place of allowing for return of unclean spirits, and her response is about His mom being blessed? Seems a bit out of place doesn’t it? Who knows if she truly had listened to His words or if she was caught up in the heightened emotion of all this and kind of stuck in her own head in which she blurted out something that sounded spiritual, of what we might call “Christianese” today, but ended up being out in left field somewhere. And she raised her voice so the whole crowd could hear. Who knows what her motive was, but it does appear that she wanted to be heard more than she wanted to listen.
Are there times when you aren’t really listening when God speaks, could be at church during the sermon or while reading your bible, and then you get caught up in your own thoughts? Or maybe you get tempted to care more about how you’re perceived by others than hearing and learning what God is teaching?
There is a time for everything, and there are times when we don’t need to speak or make ourselves the center of attention, we just simply need to hear and obey. This was one of those times.
The Distinction Jesus Makes
Although this woman’s outburst was a rather oddly timed one, Jesus did what He does so well – He used it as a teaching opportunity. On one hand, yes, Mary was blessed among women being the mother of our Savior, and that is incredible, yet when this woman in the crowd attempted to elevate Mary, Jesus shifted the perspective to the proper place.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t think Mary was blessed, but this makes it clear that the focus shouldn’t be on her and that she too, was blessed not that she was simply the one who birthed him, but because she heard the word of God and she accepted it and kept it. With that, Jesus is saying that anyone who hears God’s words and keeps it are blessed, so Mary isn’t elevated even because of that, she is a co-heir along with us all.
Why is this an important distinction then? Well, we see this especially in the Catholic Church that Mary is elevated, even to the point of praying to her. But the simple fact is that Mary doesn’t save you, she can’t give you faith, and she cannot mediate between us and God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of God, and Jesus is the only one who can save. So yes, we acknowledge that Mary was blessed, but you too can be just as blessed in following her and other believers’ examples of faith and obedience.
This is the same message that Jesus told the lawyer who had come to test him which we went over a couple months ago in Luke chapter 10 – hear the word of God and DO IT! This may be something you’ve heard before, especially if you’ve been a Christian for some time, but are you hearing AND keeping God’s word?
If you have ears to hear what the Spirit says, don’t harden your heart, but instead receive the word and obey, for then Jesus says you will be blessed.
Lastly, some may wonder, what exactly are we supposed to hear and obey in the word of God? Well, all of it. The word of God is living and active and it is breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that we can be complete and equipped for every good work. In order to hear though, we must listen as we read, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak directly into our lives. We could be willing to listen and obey, but if we don’t open the word of God then we can’t hear Him speak to us.
Today, open God’s word and let Him speak to you and when you hear Him, keep His commands.